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Compensation Culture Or Fair Compensation For Personal Injury Claims?

Jul 24, 2008
Who is to blame? Is there really a compensation culture costing Britain a fortune or does the system just ensure that victims get what they deserve?

The phrase 'compensation culture' is a term that has found itself widely adopted in the UK and used to refer to the legal redress and claim for compensation made by sufferers of personal injury or illness. The expression has taken on political significance and is often applied in a negative context used to imply that often injuries are trivial or the cause and connection tenuous.

Despite the legalization in 2000 to allow "no win, no fee" lawsuits, the total cost of compensation cases in Britain has in fact largely remained static. The cumulative total cost of compensation claims is estimated at 10.1billionn. This is equivalent to slightly over 1% of GDP. Insurance claims are responsible for 7,100m annually, while the next largest category (the NHS) accounts for only 900m. Of this, it is estimated that around 50% is paid out for personal injury claims. Figures that lead the government's Better Regulation Task Force to report that: "the compensation culture is a myth".

It's no easier to win a case brought under the "no win, no fee" system than to win a case brought with the help of legal aid so it's not totally surprising that compensation costs have not increased that much. The judge must still be convinced on the evidence that if the other party had a duty of care towards you, and should have foreseen the risk, then they were at fault. Under the "no win, no fee" system, the claimant's solicitors are liable for all the bills accrued by both sides if the claimant loses. It is unlikely that they are going to take the case to court unless they are fairly certain that there is a valid personal injury claims with a good chance of success.

Where the negative connotation implied in the phrase 'compensation culture' fails genuine claimants is in the grouping together of those that legitimately seek financial redress for injuries or damage with the more outrageous types of claims often seen in the USA. Of course there are malingerers or hustlers looking to play the system by making false and tenuous claims, but the association of genuine claims with false or outlandishly newsworthy claims is used as a ploy to discredit claims of all types and to try to protect corporations' bottom lines not victims rights. After all, if an insurance company can prevent having to pay personal injury compensation under a policy because the innocent victim believes they will be labeled as part of the "compensation culture" problem if they claim, their negative media has more than paid for itself.

As strongly as spurious claims should be resisted, people should be able to retain the right to make genuine claims. Rights and responsibilities would be meaningless if they could not ultimately be enforced through litigation often providing a guard when regulation fails people.

Compensation culture is a convenient scapegoat allowing big business to associate its victims: such as the 3,500 mesothelioma victims who die every year in Britain as a result of exposure to asbestos - with "scroungers" and "conmen". It also opens a new front in corporations' ongoing war against regulation. Without regulation, compensation is often the only protection people have. When business and government complain about the costs and inconvenience of the compensation culture perhaps they might want to examine why these compensation claims exist and what might be done to prevent the pain and misery of the accident or illness that provoked the claim in the first place.
About the Author
We deal in a range of claims, including personal injury claims and compensation.
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